What are the characteristics of the flu?

Sudden onset of fever, chills, headache, malaise, and diffuse myalgia are the main symptoms of flu. As the illness progresses, sore throat, nasal congestion, and deep cough can become more prominent. Severity of the illness can range from simple upper respiratory tract infection with low grade fevers to serious life threatening infection.

How is influenza spread?

Influenza is spread from person to person by direct contact, large droplet infection, or articles recently contaminated by nasopharyngeal secretions. It is highly contagious. Patients are most infectious in the 24 hours before the onset of symptoms and during the period of peak symptoms. The virus sheds in the nasal secretions and usually ceases after 7 days. The incubation period is usually 1 to 3 days.

What is the treatment for influenza?

Because influenza is a virus, antibiotics have no effect on it. Treat the fever with acetaminophen or ibuprophen. Children and teenagers with influenza should not receive aspirin because of the increased risk of developing Reye syndrome. Encourage fluid intake and monitor fever. If symptoms persist, contact your pediatrician.